LET US THEREFORE BE DILIGENT: spoudasomen (1PAAS) oun:
(He 4:1; 6:11; Matthew 7:13; 11:12,28, 29, 30; Luke 13:24; 16:16; John 6:27;
Philippians 2:12; 2Peter 1:10,11)
"Let us therefore be zealous and exert
ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and
experience it for ourselves]" (Amplified Version)
Let us is a
frequent phrase in Hebrews introducing an
exhortation which is a word that describes the writer's act of advising or urging strongly,
of persuading earnestly, of warning or making urgent appeal to these first
century readers. A doctrinal truth is presented - in this case, the truth of
a remaining rest available by faith - then the truth is applied. Modern readers also do well to pay careful attention to the
"let us" passages! Notice how the writer includes himself in this
exhortation ("let us").
Let us - 13x in 12v - Heb 4:1, 11, 14, 16; 6:1; 10:22, 23, 24; 12:1
(2x), He 12:28; 13:13, 15
The idea of the rest of God is not simply a piece of curious information not
readily accessible to the rank and file of Christians. It is a spur to
action. So the writer
proceeds to exhort his readers to make that rest their own...These earlier
people had perished. Let the readers beware!
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan
Pradis = computer version)
(oun) means consequently and introduces a logical conclusion, result
or inference based on the preceding verses. In
Inductive Bible Study
"therefore" is referred to as a
term of conclusion.
In Hebrews 4 (which also begins with a "therefore")
the writer gives a strong exhortation based upon a clear Old Testament
example calling on his readers...
"Therefore, let us fear
(combination of admiration and fear, awe and dread, wonder and terror) lest,
while a promise remains of entering His rest (cessation from labor) any one
of you should seem to have come short of (miss or not reach) it. For indeed
we have had good news preached (euaggelizo =English "evangelized") to
us (we have been evangelized), just as they (Israel in the wilderness) also
(were evangelized); but the word (logos)
they heard did not profit (accomplish the goal in) them, (Why not?) because
it (the Word) was not united (mingled, mixed, blended thoroughly together)
by faith (saving faith is evidenced by obedience not disobedience) in those
who heard...it remains for some to enter it (God's rest or cessation from
labor), and those who formerly had good news preached (euaggelizo
= in effect were "evangelized") to them failed to enter (God's rest) because
of disobedience (obstinate and rebellious disbelief, unwillingness to be
persuaded, equating with absence of saving faith)..." (Hebrews 4:1-2, 6)
And thus we see that
based upon what the writer has just said about entering or not entering
God's rest, he is cautioning his readers to not make the same mistake that
the majority of Israel in the wilderness made.
Be diligent -
Diligence is the opposite of drifting (He 2:1-note)
and is the admonition that some of these hesitating, vacillating Hebrew
readers needed to hear. How? By hearing and heeding the sharp Word of God
(cp Ro 10:17-note).
That was the very problem the writer had alluded to with ancient Israel in
the wilderness. They heard but they did not heed and as a result they fell
in the wilderness.
Be diligent (4704)
[word study] from spoude =
earnestness, diligence) means to apply earnestness and
speaks primarily of an attitude which then is associated with or leads to an
appropriate action (in this case "entering God's rest"). The readers (the
verb spoudazo is plural) are to hasten or hurry to enter God's rest, to do
this quickly, earnestly applying themselves to this pursuit.
conveys the idea of hastening to do something with the implication of
associated energy or with intense effort and motivation. Spoudazo means to
be marked by careful unremitting attention or persistent application. The
idea is to give maximum effort, to do your best, to spare no effort, to
hurry on, to be eager! Hasten to do a thing, exert yourself, endeavour to
do it. It means not only to be willing to do something with eagerness, but
to follow through and make the effort. In other words spoudazo does
not stop with affecting one's state of mind, but also affects one's
activity. Spoudazo means to be conscientious, zealous and earnest in
discharging a duty or obligation. It speaks of intensity of purpose
followed by intensity of effort toward the realization of that
Paul uses spoudazo
in his last letter to Timothy writing for his young disciple to...
"Make every effort (spoudazo) to come to
me soon" (2Ti 4:9-note)
translates it "let us labor" which picks up on the idea that there
effort is necessary. Don't misunderstand. The writer is not calling us
to work to enter into His rest (in the sense that we in any way might be
able to earn or merit salvation).
Rather what does he specifically say we
are to do? We are to believe the promise of God's Word and
His work. One who has entered His rest of salvation is then God's...
= the result or product of someone's work
= sounds like "poem" = believers are now God's "masterpiece" as it were),
created in Christ Jesus for (expresses a believer's purpose) good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (it follows that
if the works are "our" works, not "His works", they may look "good" but they
are not truly "good works" - Jesus said "apart from Me you can do nothing"
good - see
Good Deeds)." (Ep 2:8, 9-note,
energy on achieving the goal of entering His rest. This is similar to Jesus'
"Come to Me, all who are weary and
heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and
learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND
REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light." (Matthew
11:28, 29, 30)
In short, the warning
from the OT calls for active, intense, eager, energetic exertion by the
reader who is wavering or who is simply professing and not yet possessing
Jesus in a similar passage
issues a similar call for personal responsibility in one's conversion
experience (though not a call to work for one's salvation)
commanding His listeners to...
imperative) by the narrow
gate (in Lk 13:24
Jesus says "strive
= continual action called for) to enter by the narrow door door; for
many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able."); for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction,
and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is
narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it
(Comment: Jesus says that most people will never be saved in spite of the fact
that He offers salvation as a free gift to all who will receive it in faith). (Matthew
Peter gave a similar
command to his readers whom he assumed to be believers but among whom he
knew there might be some professing faith but not possessing genuine saving
all the more
diligent (spoudazo - aorist
imperative) = Do it
now! Don't delay. Conveys a sense of urgency) to make
certain about His calling and choosing (electing) you (this speaks of the
assurance of salvation obedient believers will experience); for as long as you
practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance
into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be
abundantly supplied to you. (2Pe 1:10, 11-note) (Comment:
As a corollary, the idea is that a devout and holy
life proves the reality of one's salvation.)
Later the writer uses
the related noun spoude (diligence) writing...
we desire that each one of you show the
same diligence (as those among them who had ministered to the saints) so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,
that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and
patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:11, 12-note)
Barnes explains let us be diligent
Let us earnestly strive. Since there is a
rest whose attainment is worth all our efforts; since so many have failed of
reaching it by their unbelief; and since there is so much danger that we may
fail of it also, let us give all diligence that we may enter into it. Heaven
is never obtained but by diligence, and no one enters there who does not
earnestly desire it, and who does not make a sincere effort to reach it.
(Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary).
Ray Stedman writing about the
paradoxical association of diligence (or diligent effort) and rest
Of course, effort is needed to resist
self dependence. If we think that we have what it takes in ourselves to do
all that needs to be done, we shall find ourselves rest-less and
ultimately ineffective. Yet decision is still required of us and exertion is
needed; but results can only be expected from the realization that God is
also working and he will accomplish the needed ends. This is also the clear
teaching of Psalm 127:1,
“Unless the lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the
Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” Human effort
is still needed, but human effort is never enough." (Hebrews 4:8-11 The Rest Obtained Is
TO ENTER THAT REST: eiselthein
(AAN) eis ekeinen (that) ten katapausin:
Enter (1525)(eiserchomai from eis = into + erchomai = come) means
to go or come into. The writer's point is that God's salvation rest in
His Son Christ Jesus is there
and is available, but He will not force it upon us. Each individual
must enter that rest, an entrance not by works but by faith.
The need for God’s rest is urgent.
A person should diligently, with intense purpose and concern, secure it. It
is not that he can work his way to salvation, but that he should diligently
seek to enter God’s rest by faith—lest he, like the Israelites in the
wilderness, lose the opportunity. God cannot be trifled with. (MacArthur,
John: Hebrews. Moody Press
adds that ...
We must diligently resist any temptation
merely to profess faith in Him and then to renounce Him in the heat of
suffering and persecution. The Israelites were careless. They treated God’s
promises lightly. They hankered for Egypt, the land of their bondage (Ex
16:2, 3, Nu 11:4, 5, 6) They
were not diligent in appropriating God’s promises by faith. As a result,
they never reached Canaan. We should be warned by their example (1Co 10:6,
W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or
explains the seemingly paradoxical phrase Be Diligent to Enter God's Rest noting that this is...
the main point of the paragraph: Fear unbelief. In the last sentence of the
paragraph he says the same thing in different words. Verse 11:
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall
through following the same example of disobedience.
In other words, Israel fell from the promised joy of God because of the
disobedience of unbelief. And the same thing can happen to any professing
Christian. To keep it from happening -- and to show that we are more than
mere professing Christians (Ed: Their lips speak but their
ungodly life does not support their profession) -- he says, "Be diligent to enter God's rest" --
God's heaven. Be diligent! Pay close attention to what you've heard (He 2:1-note);
don't neglect your great salvation (He 2:3-note);
consider Jesus (He 3:1-note);
do not harden your hearts (He 3:8-note);
take care against an unbelieving heart (He 3:12-note);
exhort one another every day against the deceitfulness of sin (He 3:14-note);
and FEAR the unbelief that will keep you from your promised rest (He 4:1-note).
4:1-11 Be diligent to enter God's rest)
[word study] from katá = down and thus speaks of
permanency + paúo = make to cease) describes a ceasing from labor. In
one NT use katapausis refers a place of rest or dwelling. The primary
meaning in the present context is that of ceasing from work or from any kind
of action. Katapausis describes that state in which action, labor, or
exertion is finished. Applying this definition to the present context,
specifically God's rest, katapausis means no more self-effort as far
as salvation is concerned. It is the end of trying to please God by our own
As has been alluded to in previous notes on Hebrews 4 is possible to interpret God's "rest" in at
(1) The rest associated with
placing one's faith in Christ (see Mt 11:28, 29, 30). In the context of the
entire epistle, this
appears to be the primary meaning, that is, of coming to Jesus by faith and
entering His salvation rest where self effort is replaced (or at least
can and should be replaced) by Spirit initiated and empowered effort.
(2) The rest of those who are believers
in Christ, and who are living their Christian life in the power of the
Spirit, keeping short accounts, and thus experiencing the "peace of God".
This aspect of rest is that which is associated with sanctification, our day
to day living out of the Christ life. Ray
Stedman speaking of those who have entered this salvation rest by faith
explains that tragically many believers experience breakdown in their Christianity (not
referring to a loss of salvation but a loss of joy and sense of His presence
and power) under the pressures of stress or responsibility because they try
to work out their salvation in their power (cp Php 2:12-note,
and have not learned to "operate out of rest". (Stedman,
Ray: The Rest Obtained Is New-Creation Rest)
(3). Some who believe in a literal 1000
year kingdom (see
Millennium) feel that
the rest that is promised to
Israel (and applies to all believers) will be partially fulfilled in the reign of Christ on
earth ("the Messianic Age"), the "rest" of which Isaiah records...
Then it will come about in that day (when
Messiah takes His throne in Jerusalem after the
Great Tribulation - see
Daniel's Seventieth Week
- and the defeat of the Antichrist) that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse (the Messiah),
Who will stand as a signal (a banner lifted up to be a rallying point) for the peoples; and His
resting place (LXX
uses the related word anapausis) will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10)
(3). The rest associated with eternity
and which is described by John who...
heard a voice from heaven, saying,
"Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says
the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow
with them. (Re 14:13-note)
The KJV Commentary emphasizes that...
Rest involves more
than mere inactivity. It is that which follows the satisfactory completion
of a task. Salvation rest is the gift reckoned to the believer resulting
from Christ’s finished work. Heaven (Ed: #4 above) and millennial rest is the reward of the
believer’s labors for the Lord (Re 14:13-note).
Hebrews 4:11 records
the warning one more time: Do not miss through unbelief what God has
E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV Bible
Matthew Henry explains the rest this way:
The end proposed-rest spiritual and eternal, the rest of grace here and
glory hereafter—in Christ on earth, with Christ in heaven. The way to this
end prescribed- labour (KJV), diligent labour; this is the only way to rest;
those who will not work now shall not rest hereafter. After due and diligent
labour, sweet and satisfying rest shall follow; and labour now will make
that rest more pleasant when it comes." (Matthew Henry's Commentary on
the Whole Bible)
ANYONE FALL: hina me en to
auto tis hupodeigmati pese (3SAAS): (He 3:12,18,19)
So that (2443)
(hina) is a marker of purpose.
The idea is that the reader is be diligent to enter God's rest so that
(lest) they don't "fall dead" like the Israelites did in the wilderness.
"Lest" is not
(pipto) can describe a literal fall or can be used
figuratively (as in the present context) describing a fall into a similar ruin
as did disobedient Israel in the wilderness. In an earlier use of pipto, the
writer asked his readers to recall...
And with whom was He
(God) angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies
fell (could describe their bodies literally falling down, but
figuratively also speaks of their falling into death) in the wilderness? (He
So the writer is warning
his readers not to fall as did that generation of Israelites who died
physically in the wilderness. Those to whom this warning was issued
(specifically the group identified as "lest anyone"), would die
in their sins and be lost forever. This example of "falling" should deter
the hearers from the same deadly sin of unbelief which is manifest by
disobedience (note that this disobedience is not speaking of a single act or
a few acts of disobedience, which even genuine believers are guilty of, but
it speaks of an recalcitrant, unrepentant, obstinate disobedience
originating from a hard heart and a stiff neck). The writer then proceeds to
emphasize the seriousness of this call to obedience by painting the picture
of these words of warning as a sword, emphasizing that this warning is to
serious and must not be ignored
THROUGH FOLLOWING THE SAME
EXAMPLE OF DISOBEDIENCE: tis hupodeigmati pese (3SAAS) tes apeitheias (Acts
26:19; Romans 11:30, 31, 32; Ephesians 2:2; 5:6; Colossians 3:6; Titus 1:16;
the same example - We may fall, even as the children of Israel did in
(hupodeigma from hupo = under + deiknúo/deíknumi
= to show, to point to something, to make known the character or significance of something) means literally
that which is shown below. It means an example, pattern, illustration. It
refers to a sign suggestive of anything, an outline, a delineation, a
that hupodeigma means...
a specimen, or, still better, a
that hupodeigma signifies...
(a) a sign suggestive of anything, the
delineation or representation of a thing, and so, a figure, “copy”; in Heb.
(b) an example for imitation, John 13:15;
Jas. 5:10; for warning, Heb. 4:11; 2 Pet. 2:6.
In the present context hupodeigma
is a model of behavior which is an example the readers should avoid. In
other words, the word is used here in the sense of a warning sign.
Hupodeigma refers not to an
example of disobedience, but to an example of falling into destruction as a
result of disobedience.
In contrast is the
good example of Jesus the Servant
Who instructed His disciples to wash one another's feet because...
gave you an example (hupodeigma) that you also should do as I did to you.
Here the meaning is that of a model or pattern of behavior used for the
purpose of moral instruction.
In the NT the pattern is nearly always
established by a person whose words and actions provide a living expression
of that which Scripture calls for from all believers. At times the example
found in the Bible is negative (Heb 4). But the concept of example is
Here are the 5 other NT uses
(other than the above use from Jn 13:15 - there is only one LXX use -
Hebrews 4:11 (note)
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through
following the same example of disobedience.
Hebrews 8:5 (note)
who serve a copy (image, pattern) and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned
by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "See," He says, "that
you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the
mountain." (Comment: Here hupodeigma is used as a representative copy
or likeness of the original and/or genuine. What Moses saw on the mountain
was the original, and the constructed tabernacle [and the furnishings] the
copy which reflected the original, as well as the model which pointed to the
Hebrews 9:23 (note)
Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be
cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better
sacrifices than these.
2 Peter 2:6 (note)
and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by
reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live
ungodly thereafter; (Comment: The meaning of hupodeigma is
similar to Hebrews 4:11, where the example is a "negative" one, something
that should be avoided.)
James 5:10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience
(literally a long holding out of one's mind before giving room to passion =
emotional calm in face of
provocation or misfortune - see
makrothumia), take the prophets who spoke
in the name of the Lord.
What did the patience
or endurance of the prophets demonstrate? They serve as an example of the
perseverance of the saints demonstrating that it is possible to endure to
the end (in His power not our power).
As the writer of
Hebrews reminded his readers earlier...
we have become
partakers of Christ, if we hold fast (if we are genuinely saved, we will
hold fast - holding fast is not a meritorious work and does not earn
salvation, but only "proves" one is saved) the beginning of our assurance firm
until the end (He 3:14-note)
[word study] from a = without + peítho = persuade)
describes a refusal or an unwillingness to be persuaded and thus describes
an obstinate and rebellious unbelief. Men do not avoid God's promised rest because
of insufficient facts but because of proud and unrepentant hearts.
Paul gives us an
example of obedience testifying before King Agrippa declaring...
I did not prove
to the heavenly vision but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first,
and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even
to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds
appropriate to repentance. (Acts 26:19)
Paul explaining to the
Ephesian believers their
pre-conversion state declared...
you were dead
(spiritually dead - past tense - before you placed your faith in Christ) in your
trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of
this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit
that is now working in the sons of disobedience (apeitheia).
(Ephesians 2:1; 2:2-note)
Let no one deceive you with empty words,
for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience
(apeitheia). (Ephesians 5:6-note)
In Romans again Paul
equates disobedience with unbelief writing to the Gentile
just as you
(Roman Gentile believers) once were disobedient (verb form
apeitheo) to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their
disobedience (Apeitheia), so these
(Jews) also now have been disobedient (apeitheo), in order that because of the
mercy shown to you they (Jews) also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all
(Jews and Gentiles) in
that He might show mercy to all. (Ro 11:30, 31, 32-note)
Writing to Titus on Crete warned him about false believers declaring
They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny (present
this is their habitual practice, their lifestyle) Him, being detestable
(abominable, abhorrent = from root word meaning to "stink"!) and disobedient (apeithes
worthless for any good deed. (Titus 1:16-note)
Finally Paul reminded
Titus about their pre-conversion condition declaring that...
we also once were foolish ourselves,
disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our
life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness
of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the
basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His
mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, Whom
He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:3, 4,
In summary, it is clear that
this disobedience is used by the Holy Spirit as a synonym for unbelief. Conversely
saving faith is accompanied by sure (albeit not perfect) obedience.
><> ><> ><>
- Salmon fascinate me. Each August I drive a few miles north of my home in
Idaho and watch them make their weary way through the last stages of their
spawning run to the sandbars along Lake Creek. I always think of the long
journey they've taken.
Some months earlier, they leave the Pacific Ocean and begin their run up the
Columbia to the Snake River, then up the main fork of the Salmon River to
the East Fork, up the Secesh River to Lake Creek—more than 700 miles.
Driven by instinct, they swim against currents, up waterfalls, and around
hydroelectric dams. Despite eagles, bears, and many other predators, they
struggle to reach their ancestral spawning grounds to lay their eggs.
Their journey reminds me of the human journey. We too have a homing
instinct. "There exists in the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, a
sense of Deity," John Calvin said. We are born and we live for the express
purpose of knowing and loving God. He is the source of our life, and our
hearts are restless until they come to Him.
Are you restless today, driven by discontent and a longing for that elusive
"something more"? Jesus Christ is the source and satisfaction of all you
seek. Come to Him today and find rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28). —David
H. Roper (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Looking to Jesus, my spirit is blest,
The world is in turmoil, in Him I have rest;
The sea of my life around me may roar,
When I look to Jesus, I hear it no more. —Anon.
Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Christ.
><> ><> ><>
Alexander Maclaren has the following sermon on Hebrews 4:11 entitled...
Man's Share in
WITH this simple, practical
exhortation, the writer closes one of the most profound and intricate
portions of this Epistle. He has been dealing with two Old Testament
passages, one of them, the statement in Genesis that God rested after His
creative work; the other, the oath sworn in wrath that Israel should not
enter into God’s rest. Combining these two, he draws from them the
inferences that there is a rest of God which He enjoys, and of which He has
promised to man a share; that the generation to whom the participation
therein was first promised, and as a symbol of that participation, the
outward possession of the land, fell by unbelief, and died in the
wilderness; that the unclaimed promise continued to subsequent generations
and continues to this day. All the glories of it, all the terrors of
exclusion, the barriers that shut out, the conditions of entrance, the
stringent motives to earnestness, are one in all generations. Surface forms
may alter; the fundamentals of the religious life, in the promise of God,
and the ways by which men may win or miss it, are unchangeable.
And so the reiterated appeal comes to us with its primeval freshness,
saying, after so long a time,
‘Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not
We have, then, in the words before us, these three things — the rest of God;
the barriers against, and the conditions of, entrance; and the labour to
secure the entrance.
I. Note then, first, the rest of God.
Now it is quite possible that the Psalmist, in the passage on which our text
foots itself, may have meant by ‘My rest’ nothing more than repose in the
land, which rest was God’s since He was the giver of it. But it seems more
probable that something of the same idea was floating in his mind, which the
writer of this Epistle states so expressly and strongly — viz., that far
beyond that outward possession there is the repose of the divine nature in
which, marvellous as it may seem, it is possible for a man, in some real
fashion, to participate.
What, then, is the rest of God? The ‘rest’ which Genesis speaks about was,
of course, not repose that recruited exhausted strength, but the cessation
of work because the work was complete, the repose of satisfaction in what
we should call an accomplished ideal.
And, further, in that august conception of the rest of God is included, not
only the completion of all His purpose, and the full correspondence of
effect with cause, but likewise the indisturbance and inward harmony of that
infinite nature whereof all the parts co-operant to an end move in a motion
which is rest.
And, further, the rest of God is compatible with, and, indeed, but another
form of, unceasing activity. ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,’ said
the Master; though the works were, in one sense, finished from the
foundation of the world.
Now can we dare to dream that in any fashion that solemn, divine repose and
tranquillity of perfection can be reproduced in us? Yes! The dewdrop is a
sphere, as truly as the sun; the rainbow in the smallest drop of rain has
all the prismatic colours blended in the same harmony as when the great iris
strides across the sky. And if man be made in the image of God, man
perfected shall be deiform, even in the matter of his apparently
incommunicable repose. For they who are exalted to that final future
participation in His life will have to look back, too, upon work which,
stained as it has been in the doing, yet, in its being accepted upon the
altar on which it was humbly laid, has been sanctified and greatened, and
will be an element in their joy in the days that are to come. ‘They rest
from their labours, and their works do follow them’ — not for accusation,
nor to read to them bitter memories of incompleteness, but rather that they
may contribute to the deep repose and rest of the heavens. In a modified
form, but yet in reality, the rest of God may be possessed even by the
imperfect workers here upon earth.
And, in like manner, that other aspect of the divine repose, in the
tranquillity of a perfectly harmonious nature, is altogether, and without
restriction, capable of being reproduced, and certain in the future to be
reproduced in all them that love and trust Him, when the whole being shall
be settled and centred upon Him, and will and desires and duty and
conscience shall no more conflict. ‘Unite my heart to fear Thy name,’ is a
prayer even for earth. It will be fully answered in heaven, and the souls
made one through all their parts shall rest in God, and shall rest like God.
And further, the human participation in that divine repose will have, like
its pattern, the blending without disturbance of rest with motion. The
highest activity is the intensest repose. Just as a light, whirled with
sufficient rapidity, will seem to make a still circle; just as the faster a
the more moveless it seems to stand; just as the rapidity of the earth’s
flight through space, and the universality with which all the parts of it
participate in the flight, produce the sensation of absolute immobility. It
is not motion, but effort and friction, that break repose; and when there is
neither the one nor the other, there will be no contrariety between activity
and rest; but we shall enjoy at once the delights of both without the wear
and tear and disturbance of the one or the languor of the other.
This participation by man in the rest of God, which has its culmination in
the future, has its germ in the present. For I suppose that none of the
higher blessings which attach to the perfect state of man, as revealed in
Scripture, do so belong to that state as that their beginnings are not
realised here. All the great promises of Scripture, except those which may
point to purely physical conditions, begin to be fulfilled here in the
earnest of the inheritance. And so, though toil be our lot, and work against
the grain, beyond the strength, and for merely external objects of passing
necessity., may be our task here, and the disturbance of rest through
sorrows and cares is the experience of all, yet even here, as this Epistle
has it, ‘we who have believed do enter into rest.’ The Canaan of the Jew is
treated by the writer of this Epistle as having only been a symbol and
outward pledge of the deeper repose to which the first receivers of the
promise were being trained, if they had been faithful, to look forward and
aspire; and the heaven that awaits us, in so far as it is a place and
external condition, is in like manner but a symbol and making manifest to
sense of the spiritual verity of union with God and satisfaction and rest in
II. So look, secondly, at the barriers against, and the conditions of,
entrance into that rest.
My text says, ‘Lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.’ Now it
is to be observed that in this section, of which this is the concluding
hortatory portion, there is a double reason given for the failure of that
generation to whom the promise was addressed to appropriate it to
themselves; and that double representation has been unfortunately obscured
in our Authorised Version by a uniform rendering of two different words.
Sometimes, as here in my text, we find that the word
translated ‘unbelief’ really means disobedience; and sometimes we find that
it is correctly translated by the former term. For instance, in the earlier
portions of the section, we find a warning against ‘an evil heart of
unbelief.’ The word there is correctly translated, Then we find again, ‘To
whom He ‘sware in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest; but
unto them that believed not,’ where the word ought rather to be ‘them that
were disobedient.’ And in the subsequent verse we find the ‘unbelief’ again
mentioned. So there are not one but two things stated by the writer as the
barriers to entrance — unbelief and its consequence and manifestation as
well as root, disobedience.
And the converse, of course, follows. If the barrier be a shut door of
unbelief, plated with disobedience, like iron upon an oak portal, then the
condition of entrance is faith, with its consequence of submission of will,
and obedience of life.
Notice the important lessons that are given by this alternation of the two
ideas of faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. Disobedience is the
root of unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience. Faith is
submission, voluntary, within a man’s own power. If it be not exercised the
true cause lies deeper than all intellectual ones, lies in the moral
aversion of his will and in the pride of independence, which says, ‘Who is
Lord over us?’ Why should we have to depend upon Jesus Christ? And as faith
is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, and unbelief leads
on to higher-handed rebellion. The two interlock each other, foul mother and
fouler child; and with dreadful reciprocity of influence the less a man
trusts the more he disobeys, the more he disobeys the less he trusts.
But, then, further, note the respective influence of these two — faith and
unbelief; and the other couple, obedience and disobedience, in securing
entrance to the rest. Now I desire to bring into connection with this
duality of representation, which, as I have said, pervades this section of
our letter, our Lord’s blessed words, ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour and
are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn’
‘and ye shall find rest.’ There again, we have the double source of rest,
and by implication the double source of unrest. For the rest which is given,
and the rest which is found, that which ensues from coming to Christ, and
that which ensues from taking His yoke upon us and learning of Him, are not
the same. But the one is the rest of faith, and the other is the rest of
So, then, consider the repose that ensues from faith, the unrest that dogs
unbelief. When a man comes to Christ, then, because Christ enters into him,
he enters into rest. There follow the calming of the conscience and
reconciliation with God, there is the beginning of the harmonising of the
whole nature in one supreme and satisfying love and devotion. These things
still the storm and make the incipient Christian life in a true fashion,
though in a small measure, participant of the rest of God.
People say that it is arbitrary to connect salvation with faith, and talk to
us about the ‘injustice’ of men being saved and damned because of their
creeds. We are not saved for our faith, nor condemned for our unbelief, but
we are saved in our faith, and condemned in our unbelief. Suppose a man did
not believe that prussic acid was a poison, and took a spoonful of it and
died. You might say that his opinion killed him, but that would only be a
shorthand way of saying that his opinion led him to take the thing that did
kill him. Suppose a man believes that a medicine will cure him, and takes
it, and gets well. Is it the drug or his opinion that cures him? If a
certain mental state tends to produce certain emotions, you cannot have the
emotions if you will not have the state. Suppose you do not rely upon the
promised friendship and help of some one, you cannot have the joy of
confidence or the gifts that you do not believe in and do not care for. And
so faith is no arbitrary appointment, but the necessary condition, the only
condition possible, in the nature of things, by which a man can enter into
the rest of God. If we will not let Christ heal our wounds, they must keep
on bleeding; if we will not let Him soothe our conscience, it must keep on
pricking; if we will not have Him to bring us nigh, we must continue far
off; if we will not open the door of our hearts to let Him in, He must stop
without. Faith is the condition of entrance; unbelief bars the door of
heaven against us, because it bars the door of our hearts against Him who is
And then, in like manner, obedience and disobedience are respectively
conditions of coming into contact or remaining untouched by the powers which
give repose. Submission is tranquillity. What disturbs us in this world is
neither work nor worry, but wills unconformed to our work, and unsubmissive
to our destiny. When we can say, ‘Thy will be done,’ then some faint
beginnings of peace steal over our souls, and birds of calm sit
brooding even on the yet heaving deep. The ox that kicks against the pricks
only makes its hocks bloody. The ox that bows its thick neck to the yoke,
and willingly pulls at the burden, has a quiet life. The bird that dashes
against the wires of its cage bruises its wings and puts its little self
into a flutter. When it is content with its limits, its song comes back.
Obedience is repose; disobedience is disturbance, and they who trust and
submit have entered into rest.
III. Now, lastly, a word about the discipline to secure the entrance.
is a singular paradox and bringing together of opposing ideas, is it not,
Let us labour to enter into rest? The paradox is not so strong in the
Greek as here, but it still is there. For the word translated ‘labour’
carries with it the two ideas of earnestness and of diligence, and this is
the condition on which alone we can secure the entrance, either into the
full heaven above, or into the incipient heaven here.
But note, if we distinctly understand what sort of toil it is that is
required to secure it, that settles the nature of the diligence. The main
effort of every Christian life, in view of the possibilities of repose that
are open to it here and now, and yonder in their perfection, ought to be
directed to this one point of deepening and strengthening faith and its
You can cultivate your faith, it is within your own power. You can make it
strong or weak, operative through your life, or only partially, by fits and
starts. And what is required is that Christian people should make a business
of their godliness, and give themselves to it as carefully and as
consciously and as constantly as they give themselves to their daily
pursuits. The men that are diligent in the Christian life, who exercise that
commonplace, prosaic, pedestrian, homely virtue of earnest effort, are sure
to succeed;and there is no other way to succeed. You cannot go to heaven in silver
slippers. But although it be true that heaves is a gift, and that the bread
of God is given to us by His Son, the old commandment remains unrepealed,
and has as direct and stringent reference to the inward Christian life as to
the outward. ‘In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread,’ though it be
at the same time bread that is given thee. And how are we to cultivate our
faith? By contemplating the great object which kindles it. Do you do that?
By resolving, with fixed and reiterated determinations, that we will
exercise it. ‘I will trust and not be afraid.’ Do you do that? By averting
our eyes from the distracting competitors for our interest and attention, in
so far as these might enfeeble our confidence. Do you do that? Diligence;
that is the secret — a diligence which focuses our powers, and binds our
into one strong, solid mass, and delivers us from languor and indolence, and
stirs us up to seek the increase of faith as well as of hope and charity.
Then, too, obedience is to be cultivated. How do you cultivate obedience? By
obeying — by contemplating the great motives that should sway and melt, and
sweetly subdue the will, which are all shrined in that one saying.
‘Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price,’ and by rigidly confining
our desires and wishes within the limits of God’s appointment, and
religiously referring all things to His supreme will. If thus we do, we
shall enter into rest.
So, dear friends, the path is a plain enough one. We all know it. The goal
is a clear enough one. I suppose we all believe it. What is wanted is feet
that shall run with perseverance the race that is set before us. The word of
my text which is translated ‘labour,’ is found in this Epistle in another
connection, where the writer desires that we should show ‘the same diligence
to the full assurance of hope unto the end.’ It is also caught up by one of
the other apostles, who says to us, ‘Giving all diligence, add to your
faith’ the manifold virtues of a practical obedience, and so ‘the entrance
shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ A more authoritative voice points us to
the same strenuous effort, for our Lord has said, ‘Labour not for the meat
which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life,
which the Son of man shall give unto you,’ and when the listeners asked Him
what works He would have them do, He answered, bringing all
down to one, which being done would produce all others, ‘This is the work of
God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.’
So if we labour to increase our faith, and its fruits of obedience, with a
diligence inspired by our earnestness which is kindled by the thought of the
sublimity of the reward, and the perils that seek to rob us of our crown,
then, even in the wilderness, we shall enter into the Promised Land, and
though the busy week of care and toil, of changefulness and sorrow, may
disturb the surface of our souls, we shall have an inner sanctuary, where we
can shut our doors about us and enjoy a foretaste of the Sabbath-keeping
of the heavens, and be wrapped in the stillness of the rest of God.